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Score: 85%
ESRB: Everyone
Publisher: Arush Entertainment
Developer: Yobro Productions
Media: Download/0
Players: 1 - 2
Genre: Puzzle

Graphics & Sound:

Unlike most modern-day games, MonkeyBrains eschews the 3D paradigm and goes for some old-school side-scrolling 2D goodness. You can almost feel the targets centered on 'old-school gamers' as you play the game -- those of us who still think that Castlevania: Symphony of the Night blows away any of those new-fangled 3D adventure games.

Fortunately, it ends up working despite that. The art style in MonkeyBrains reminded me a great deal of Lemmings and the lesser-known King Arthur's World for the SNES -- simple yet effective. The monkeys are a great deal more detailed than the lemmings ever were, though, and they have a series of really cute animations that show off the monkey's personality. The world itself is a little static, but it's definitely got enough useless 'stuff' to keep you from getting bored at looking at the levels.

The sounds in MonkeyBrains felt, unfortunately, a little lacking. There is some basic music, but it sounds a little too NES era for my tastes. The sound effects, while certainly adequate, are repeated so many times during the game (especially the 'brain switch' sounds) that you will either tune them out completely or turn them off. It's certainly not the worst-sounding game I've ever played, but it's definitely considerably behind-the-times in terms of aureal ability, which is somewhat saddening.


Thank the gods that the gameplay is right up there with the best of the puzzle games. Although it has a few nagging control issues, MonkeyBrains is nonetheless a great entry into the annals of brainbending games, and a decidedly nicely-priced entry at that.

In MonkeyBrains, you control both Doctor Simius and a varying troupe of monkeys as you attempt to save the world from the evil Dr. Kreep. There's not much of a plotline, really, although it roughly sets up the good Doctor's predicament -- he's in a wheelchair, but he has to get to the end of each level so that he can save the world. Unfortunately, the levels are singularly inhospitable to someone who can't jump or swimp or anything else useful.

This, of course, is where the monkeys come in. You have the ability to switch just who you control -- hence, MonkeyBrains. By controlling the various monkeys and the good Doctor, you can eventually complete each level and bring Dr. Kreep down to his knees.

You control the monkeys with a series of simple controls. They can jump, call other monkeys, and maniuplate simple objects -- they can pull switches, pick up rocks or monkeys or even the Doctor, and so on. These sorts of manipulations are necessary for advancement, along with a bevy of jumping and timing puzzles. Fortunately, for the less mechanically-inclined of us, the game centers more puzzle-solving aspects and less on pure action or timing sequences. You still have to be fleet of finger, but it's not necessarily as important as it can be in these sorts of games. Which is, in my book, a Good Thing.

Each level generally consists of a series of puzzles. Sometimes they can be done out of order, but oftentimes there's a logical sequence that you can follow to help you get through. Being monkeys, the beasts that you're not controlling don't necessarily help you -- they'll oftentimes wander aimlessly, or pull switches when you'd rather them not, or not stand still on buttons you need to have pressed. It feels a little like Sheep, although not quite as infuriating.

MonkeyBrains is being sold in an episodic format. Each episode has a few levels, and the entire set of six episodes will have you playing for quite a long time. It's not as many levels as I would have liked, but it's certainly enough that you don't feel ripped off. There's also a multiplayer version of the game, where you can either work together on a level and solve it with the help of two brains [which is surprisingly useful], or fight each other in a sort of monkey deathmatch. While the versus mode is entertaining for a bit, the cooperative game is definitely the more enjoyable of the two. It's a shame that it's not Internet playable.


Like any good puzzle game, the levels start out quite simple and grow in challenge. There are a few times that you may feel that progressing is impossible, but trust in the developers -- you should be able to make it through every challenge presented to you. Timing is often of the essence, but usually what is more important is careful thought. Switches often need to be triggered in certain patterns to work properly, and experimentation is key. Play around, and try unusual things [blocking water pipes with rocks, bouncing rocks on the beds, and whatnot] and you'll solve the puzzles eventually.

Game Mechanics:

The basic mechanics of MonkeyBrains are painfully simple. You have keys for the four directions, plus a few action buttons. The action buttons do different things when they're combined in various ways, allowing for more than the basic number of controls. It actually works surprisingly well, and could be easily adapted for a console (although no TV screen has a high enough resolution to make that look nice.)

My major fault with MonkeyBrains, however, is the actual execution of the controls. While they're simple enough, they don't quite react fast enough. Doing a series of jumps is a major pain in the butt, and anything that requires meticulous timing is sure to fail the first few times you try it. Once you get used to the strange timing mechanism used in MonkeyBrains, you can compensate -- most of the time. It's still annoying, but it's certainly not a game ender.

Despite its nagging control issues, MonkeyBrains is a great example of a solid puzzle game that is sure to entertain both the young and the young at heart. With plenty of gameplay, a solid puzzle basis, and cute graphics, MonkeyBrains is sure to please the puzzlers in the family, and anyone who would like to just sit and play a game for a while.

-Sunfall to-Ennien, GameVortex Communications
AKA Phil Bordelon

Minimum System Requirements:

P300, 32 MB RAM, VGA Graphics Card, DX-compatible sound card, Win95/98/ME, DX 7.0+, 57 MB HD Space, Internet connection

Test System:

Athlon 1.1GHz running Win98 SE, 512MB RAM, GeForce 2 GTS w/ 32MB RAM, SoundBlaster Live!, 8x DVD-ROM

Windows Merchant Prince II Windows Monopoly Tycoon

Game Vortex :: PSIllustrated